My grandfather was not a Saturday Night Live fan. In fact, I doubt if he ever watched a single episode. He did not “do silly” well or like humor that degraded another person. Although he liked to laugh, he never really found much use for a program like Saturday Night Live.
No, my grandfather’s form of humor rested with comedians like Bob Hope, Jerry Clower (the great southern culturist), and Jerry Lewis. And, as for TV, my grandfather watched little of it besides sports and episodes of Dallas (his favorite) and Gunsmoke.
“There is nothing on that little box but trash,” he liked to say.
Therefore, that made his fascination with Gilda Radner all the more interesting. A friend had given him a recording of one of Ms. Radner’s concerts. After listening to the show, I found it a bit crude (by my grandfather’s standards) and silly. But, for one reason or another, my grandfather loved it. He would listen to it on a regular basis and would even quote from it. It became a joke in the family. My very proper grandfather listening to and loving Gilda Radner.
One day I asked my grandfather why he liked Gilda Radner’s humor and craft so much. His answer surprised me. My grandfather had read of Ms. Radner’s battle with cancer in a magazine while he was visiting his own doctor. He was taken by her honesty, joy, and humor in the face of something so difficult. After reading the story in the magazine, he went home, found the recording that the friend had given him (but that he had not listened to) and played it.
“There was something beautiful about a person laughing in the face of such struggle,” my grandfather said. “I don’t know, maybe listening to her show was my way of identifying with her and thinking that she would identify with me.”
For Christmas that year, I gave my grandfather a copy of Ms. Radner’s book. It was a colorful but well-written account of her life, including her marriage to Gene Wilder, her career, and her latest battle with cancer. Behind the funny quips and humorous stunts, this was a woman who knew how to face life and put a smile on one or two people’s faces while she did it.
My grandfather loved the book, but especially one particular story about her dog. While pregnant, the dog was involved in a tragic accident, whose effects required her back legs to be amputated. The story was not funny by any means, but Ms. Radner told it in such a way that made you see the point from a sweeter angle.
Thankfully, the puppies survived and were born normally. The mother dog recovered as well, even walking again by learning to use her front legs and dragging her bottom along the ground. One day, looking out her window, Ms. Radner saw the mother dog walking and dragging herself around the yard, only to be followed by her new little puppies who, themselves, walked by using their front paws and dragging their healthy legs behind them.
“What a sight that must have been,” my grandfather would say. I’m sure this was especially poignant for him as a farmer who watched all kinds of animals every day. “I bet it was the darndest thing you ever saw,” he would finish.
Those little puppies, no matter the health of their own legs, learned to walk by watching their mother. Their mother’s infirmities transferred to the perfectly healthy bodies of her puppies because of the power of example.
Since hearing that illustration all those years ago, I have thought many times about the examples in life that meant the most to me. I have thought about the people I walk like and of those who walk like me.
My grandfather taught me resilience, strength, and kindness. I haven’t always practiced it the way I should have, but it wasn’t because I didn’t know the way to walk.
My mother taught me faith, hope, and serving. I haven’t always been the most faithful, but it wasn’t because I didn’t know the way to walk.
My mentor, Ronnie, taught me trust, courage, and the importance of God’s word. I haven’t always used the word for our good, but it wasn’t because I didn’t know the way to walk.
No, I have always had examples that God has placed into my path who provide a good stride to emulate and a great path to follow.
What about those who walk after me? The illustration of that mama dog and her pups reminds me that my children, my friends, and my flock will walk like me. It is not a matter of if but when I will catch a glimpse of what their gait really means. And that is no laughing matter.
This principle learned around my grandfather’s table affirms that who we are, what we do, and how we live matters, not just for ourselves but for all those who follow. You bet: They will walk like me, so I should walk like Him.
“Withness” — John 14:5-16, 21- 24
In this section of the Gospel of John, Jesus instructs his disciples in the basics of “witness.” Jesus tells the disciples that they show their love for him by following and living what he has taught them. Jesus provided an example not only for loving God but also for loving others. To call themselves disciples means to exhibit the same qualities of their teacher. They shoulds walk like Him.
In this passage, Jesus unveils the cycle of the good news. Discipleship, he points out, is not a teaching or principle; it is a lifestyle. Jesus provided the example of how to follow God and how to treat others. As his disciples grew in their faith, they would not only exhibit the teachings he shared over their ministry together, they would live them out in deeper ways, particularly through the help of the Holy Spirit. This was God’s gift to them.
This article is excerpted from Making Life Matter: Embracing the Joy in the Everyday by Shane Stanford.